Eradication, elimination and suppression of Covid-19: Latin roots and a limerick explain three strategies.
Do you know the difference between eradication and elimination as strategies to fight Covid-19, especially now that Delta rules the roost? In common usage the two words are virtually interchangeable, so at first I was confused. Yet from the start, epidemiologists treated the two words as two distinctly different strategies for getting rid of the coronavirus forever.
Finally I used my noggin and went to the Latin root of each word. Speaking of roots…
Eradicate means pull out by the roots
- radix in Latin means “a radish”; or “a root”; or (figuratively) “a foundation, basis, origin, source”
- radicare in Latin means “to take root”
- eradicare in Latin means “to root out”
The old Russian folk tale about the enormous turnip is particularly appropriate. To eradicate the Delta variant of Covid-19, everyone in the entire world would need to work together. Worth a try. Not hopeful.
Eliminate means push out the door
- limen in Latin means “threshold”
- ex limine in Latin means “off the threshold”, from ex “off, out” + limine, ablative of limen
- eliminare in Latin means “to banish” or “to push over the threshold and out the door.”
So if we eliminate Covid-19 we merely banish it from our own country. We kick it out. It exists, but not in our back yard. Elimination is the next best thing.
Suppress means to squash or stifle
- Latin suppressus is the past participle of supprimere, meaning “press down, stop, hold back, check, stifle”
Yesterday Chris Hipkins, our Minister for the coronavirus response, conceded that it may prove to be unrealistic to stick to our plan to eliminate the Delta variant of Covid-19 forever. Instead we would then try to suppress it. As in whack-a-mole. (Sorry, poor moles.)
Lockdown in Aotearoa—desperate doggerel
We had many months in fools' paradise. We sort of eliminated coronavirus. Alpha was easy but Delta is sneaky. It's the worst of the worst parasites.
(You can write a better limerick. Please do.)
*A student created this wonderful piece of stumpwork (the enormous turnip) for the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) Diploma in Technical Hand Embroidery.